Sobinov, Leonid Vitalevich.

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sobinov, Leonid Vital’evich.


Born May 26 (June 7), 1872, in Yaroslavl; died Oct. 1934, in Riga; buried in Moscow. Soviet lyric tenor. People’s Artist of the Republic (1923).

Son of a miller’s clerk and grandson of a serf, Sobinov graduated from the law department of Moscow University in 1894 and worked as assistant to an attorney from 1895 to 1899. While a law student, he sang in the university chorus and, in 1892, began studies at the Music and Drama School of the Moscow Philharmonic Society, graduating in 1897. A student of A. M. Dodonov and A. A. Santagano-Gorchakova, he performed with an Italian opera troupe and, beginning in 1896, in concerts sponsored by the Circle of Lovers of Russian Music; the circle was organized by A. N. Kerzin, an attorney and amateur musician, and his wife, M. S. Kerzina, a pianist and concertmaster, to promote Russian vocal chamber music.

In 1897, Sobinov made his debut on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater in the part of Sinodal in Rubinstein’s opera The Demon. His debut marked the beginning of an association with the theater that was to last the length of his artistic career. He also performed at the Mariinskii Theater and at other opera houses in St. Petersburg. In the years 1905-11 he toured Western Europe, winning worldwide recognition with his appearances at Milan’s La Scala and in Madrid. After the October Revolution he was very active in promoting music for the public at large while continuing his performing career. In 1917 and 1918 he was director of the Bolshoi Theater.

Sobinov was a leading representative of the Russian classical school in vocal music. His unique and captivating voice, with its radiant and silvery tone, and his artistry, dramatic talents, and high standard of culture were his trademarks. The softness and tenderness of his voice did not preclude strength and manliness. Sobinov was able to penetrate deeply into the spiritual world of his characters and to grasp the composer’s intent. He was noted for the poetic quality he gave to the musical image. Sobinov brought new interpretations to many operatic roles; one of his best was Lenskii in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which became the classical model for subsequent performers. Among his other roles were Boian in Glinka’s Ruslan and Liudmila, Levko and Berendei in Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night and Snow Maiden, Vladimir Igorevich in Borodin’s Prince Igor, Lohengrin in Wagner’s Lohengrin, Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Massenet’s Werther, Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, Jontek in Moniuszko’s Halka, and the Duke and Alfredo in Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata. Sobinov was also a great master of vocal chamber music and a subtle interpreter of the musical romances of M. I. Glinka, P. I. Tchaikovsky, N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, and S. V. Rachmaninoff.

Sobinov was awarded the order of the Red Banner of Labor. The Saratov Conservatory and the Yaroslavl Music Academy bear his name.


L’vov, M. L. V. Sobinov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Orfenov, A. Tvorcheskiiput’ L. V. Sobinova. Moscow, 1965.
L. V. Sobinov, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.